While far from being Wim Wenders’s best film, this 1984 collaboration with Sam Shepard, about a speechless wanderer (Harry Dean Stanton) returning from the desert and trying to resume relationships with his abandoned and scattered family, has an epic sweep (with superb color photography by Robby Müller) that occasionally brings the movie within hailing distance of its outsized ambitions. (Praised in Europe and widely scorned in the U.S., in part because, like Wenders’s Hammett, it treats an American subject from a European perspective, it at least has the merit of treating some old myths out of John Ford with fresh and contemporary insights.) Like Wenders’s other road movies, this is largely about the spaces between people and the words they speak—Antonioni updated and infused with German romanticism; the various means of indirection through which the hero communicates with his son (Hunter Carson) and wife (Nastassja Kinski) constitute a striking motif. With Dean Stockwell and Aurore Clement, as well as a plaintive score by Ry Cooder.
R • 2 hours 28 min • 1984